ZEN AND SUPERNATURAL POWERS
Yoga claims that various supernatural powers can be acquired by
Meditation, but Zen does not make any such absurd claims. It rather denies
those who are believed to have acquired supernatural powers by the practice
of austerities. The following traditions clearly show this spirit: "When Fah
Yung (Hoyu) lived in Mount Niu Teu (Gozusan) he used to receive every
morning the offerings from hundreds of birds, and was believed to have
supernatural powers. But after his enlightenment by the instruction of the
Fourth Patriarch, the birds ceased to make offering, because be became a
being too divine to be seen by inferior animals."
It is quite reasonable that Zenists distinguish supernatural powers from
spiritual uplifting, the former an acquirement of Devas, or of Asuras, or of
Arhats, or of even animals, and the latter as a nobler accomplishment
attained only by the practisers of Mahayanism. Moreover, they use the term
supernatural power in a meaning entirely different from the original one.
Lin Tsi (Rinzai) says, for instance: "There are six supernatural powers of
Buddha: He is free from the temptation of form, living in the world of form;
He is free from the temptation of sound, living in the world of sound; He is
free from the temptation of smell, living in the world of smell; He is free
from the temptation of taste, living in the world of taste; He is free from the
temptation of Dharma, living in the world of Dharma. These are six
Sometimes Zenists use the term as if it meant what we call Zen Activity, or
the free display of Zen in action, as you see in the following examples.
Tüng Shan (ToZan) was on one occasion attending on his teacher Yun Yen
(Ungan), who asked: "What are your supernatural powers?" Tüng Shan,
saying nothing, clasped his hands on his breast, and stood up before Yun
Yen. "How do you display your supernatural powers?" questioned the
teacher again. Then Tüng Shan said farewell and went out.
Wei Shan (Esan) one day was taking a nap, and seeing his disciple Yang
Shan (Kyozan) coming into the room, turned his face towards the wall.
"You need not, Sir," said Yang Shan, "stand on ceremony, as I am your
disciple." Wei Shan seemed to try to get up, so Yang Shan went out; but
Wei Shan called him back and said: "I shall tell you of a dream I dreamed."
The other inclined his head as if to listen. "Now," said Wei Shan, "divine
my fortune by the dream." Thereupon Yang Shan fetched a basin of water
and a towel and gave them to the master, who washed his face thereby. By
and by Hiang Yen (Kyogen) came in, to whom Wei Shan said: "We
displayed supernatural powers a moment ago. It was not such supernatural
powers as are shown by Hinayanists." "I know it, Sir," replied the other,
"though I was down below." "Say, then, what it was," demanded the master.
Then Hiang Yen made tea and gave a cup to Wei Shan, who praised the two
disciples, saying: "You surpass Çariputra and Maudgalyayana in your
wisdom and supernatural powers."
Again, ancient Zenists did not claim that there was any mysterious element
in their spiritual attainment, as Dogen says unequivocally respecting his
enlightenment: "I recognized only that my eyes are placed crosswise above
the nose that stands lengthwise, and that I was not deceived by others. I
came home from China with nothing in my hand. There is nothing
mysterious in Buddhism. Time passes as it is natural, the sun rising in the
east, and the moon setting into the west."